Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Turning The Other Cheek" might not mean what you think it means

Today's Gospel is a commonly quoted passage about turning the other cheek.  

Most Christians I know (including myself for a long time) viewed this as a passive, almost meek, behavior. 

But knowing a little about the culture during Jesus' time gives us a potentially different lens.

In those days, Jews, and even Romans, viewed the left hand as unclean.  They used their right hand in contact with others.  Including striking someone.  In addition, they would use the back of their right hand when slapping someone to show disgust and insinuate superiority over their victim. 

Therefore, the act of striking someone on the right cheek meant the aggressor was showing contempt for the person.

Now Jesus encouraged his followers to turn the other cheek, which meant exposing the left.  That means the aggressor would need to strike with the inside of his right hand, indicating equality, or the back of his left hand, which was unclean. That would give the striker pause! This does two things.  First, it does not show violence or fear ... in many ways it shows resistance and bravery.  Second, it activates the aggressor's conscious - which is what Jesus was really after.

I saw Fr. Barron discuss this passage once, and he summed it up by saying during a violent event, you historically had two options.  Fight or flight.  Fighting meant an eye for an eye, etc - and just bred a more violent world.  Flight, on the other hand, vindicated the violence and allowed it to continue.  Jesus offers us a third option which translates to a peaceful stand while making a point.  

Fr. Barron also gave a very interesting, modern day example of this kind of behavior.  He said one day, Bishop Desmond Tutu came upon a small bridge.  On the other side, coming at him, was a know racist who told the bishop to "step aside, I don't make way for gorillas."  Bishop Tutu stepped to the side, gestured for the man to continue, and calmly replied "I do."

No passive meekness there!
God Bless you. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I Can't Believe I Missed this Biblical Symbol

This is embarrassing.

The other day I realized I have missed a very obvious symbol in the Bible.

It isn't even in some obscure passage that we never hear in Mass.  In fact, we hear it every year at least once, and see reminders of it for weeks.

My only hope is that one of you out there missed it as well so I feel a little better.  

Ok, here it goes...

Jesus tells His followers that He is the Bread of Life, and whoever comes to Him will never go hungry.  Likewise, at the Last Supper, Jesus tells the Apostles to take and eat the bread (His body).  

In other words, Christ is "spiritual food" for them, and us.

Rewind to our our much-repeated Nativity Story.  Where did our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph lay the baby Jesus?

In a manger!

And what is a manger?  

A place where food is placed!  

Granted, normally it is food for animals, but in this case, it was The Bread of Life ... food for all of our souls!

Not sure how I could have missed that symbolism all these years.

God Bless.   

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Salt, Light, and too much Snow

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples (and us) that we are the salt, and light of the earth.
I usually focus on the "light" part of that statement, mainly because it is more vivid in my mind.  However, given that I live in the snow-ridden, northeastern United States, today the salt angle is leaping off the page at me.

Most of us probably know the general interpretation of this passage.  Back in Jesus' day, good salt was used to preserve food, much like Christ charged His disciples with preserving His word and the Faith.  However, salt that loses its flavor is worthless, and gets tossed out and trampled on - much like sinners could be tossed out of the Kingdom.  

(Two notes of interest:  One, salt does not lose flavor easily, so this could also be interpreted as "impure, or inferior" salt.   Two, if salt gets trampled into farmland, it can ruin entire crops - much like sinners can ruin otherwise Holy people.)

But this winter's weather has led me to another analogy.  Every other day, it seems like we face more snow and ice here in my part of the world.  When the road crews put high quality street salt down, we all walk confidently and remain upright (read: remain good disciples of Christ).  When they use inferior salt, or the salt has become trampled into the ground from too much traffic, our road instantly becomes very slippery - causing people to fall (read: sin). 

So whether we are preserving the Faith, or helping people walk steady on their path to Paradise, I think our mission is pretty clear!

God Bless.   

Monday, February 3, 2014

Jesus, a storm, the sea ... and two lessons

This week in Bible study we read Mark's passage about Jesus and the Storm on the Sea.

As you know, Jesus sleeps on the boat, while the Apostles worry for their lives as their ship is tossed and turned by a raging storm.

We discussed the symbolism in that passage, and uncovered one I had not thought of before.  

The obvious one is that when we put the Lord at the center of our lives, He will calm all the perceived storms around us.

The clever one I just learned the other day, was that Jesus is always with us.  If we let Him "fall asleep inside us", then we will not be able to handle what life throws at us.  We must keep Him alive ... awake ... and guiding us through our day.

I've said it before and I'll say it again ... I love how God can use a passage we've read hundreds of times to speak to us in new ways.

God Bless you.